Spicy paste for chicken dishes

Chicken can be a little bit bland depending on how you cook it. So here’s an ingenious spice paste that you can easily rub you chicken with before roasting, BBQing or (like I did last weekend) slow cooking in a tagine dish.

Mashing garlic with coarse salt

Mashing garlic with coarse salt

Blending in hot smoked paprika and curcuma powder

Blending in hot smoked paprika and curcuma powder

You need:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Coarse salt
  • Hot paprika powder
  • Curcuma powder
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • Olive oil

In a pestle and mortar, mash the peeled garlic cloves with a pinch of coarse salt. We add salt here for two reasons: 1 – to help release the liquids in the garlic and 2- to create a texture that is easier to mash thanks to the resistance of the salt crystals.

When you have a smooth garlic paste add a spoonful of hot paprika powder and a spoonful of  curcuma powder and mash together until all blended, adding a little bit of olive oil if the mix is too dry and sticky. Add the peppercorns and mash until all ground in and you have a smooth mixture.

You can then adjust the amount of paste and its texture to taste with olive oil, making sure you mix everything together well and the paste doesn’t split.

Gently rub that spicy paste into your raw chicken to give a delicious twist to any cut of chicken.

What I most like about this, is its versatility: you can use it to massage chicken meat before slow cooking  the Moroccan-way in a tagine dish with slices of lemon and tinned tomatoes; you can rub it on chicken skin before grilling to create the tastiest spicy crispy skin; you can use it as a simple marinade; etc. 1 recipe, many many possible uses!

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Sarah’s white chocolate mousse cake

I love summer. I know, that’s all I’ve said for the past weeks, but I really do. It’s rocked my world for about a month now, and I don’t want it to end. Ever.

I love summer for a whole lot of good reasons – many of which are related to food one way or another. But I have found an issue with it: it is so hot in our house that I cannot bring myself to bake or cook anything that requires standing by the oven for too long. So last weekend, when my friend Sarah offered to bake a cake as dessert of our BBW, you better believe I did not refuse! And how clever of me: she made the most amazing white chocolate mousse cake.

It is a layered cake composed of 2 layers of (incredibly light and bouncy) sponge, with a layer of white chocolate mousse in the middle, and a delicious frosting of white chocolate mousse topped with fresh raspberries and strawberries. I might just have to steal her recipe and try make it myself as soon as the weather allows…

Sarah's white chocolate mousse cake

Sarah’s white chocolate mousse cake

White chocolate mousse cake, topped with fresh summer fruit

White chocolate mousse cake, topped with fresh summer fruit

 

Edit: If you want to make this cake, turns out the recipe comes from the book ‘Gorgeous cakes’ by Annie Bell. 

Annie Bell  "Gorgeous cakes"

Annie Bell
“Gorgeous cakes”

Chez Bruce

I have wanted to write little restaurant reviews since I opened this blog, but never really got around it. Well… to be perfectly honest – and slightly passive-aggressive – this was supposed to be chipmuncher’s role and he never really ended up doing it! So, here, I’ll do it myself! And the first place I am happy to write about is Chez Bruce, where we went in April (for my birthday).

I had wanted to go to the SW London Michelin starred restaurant for months and had heard only good things about the food there, if some mixed-reviews about the service. So when, on my birthday, chipmuncher announced he had booked a table, I was ecstatic. So much that I immediately twitted about it with enthusiasm (this will be an important information later in the text). We downed our pints of bitter chandi and ran home to get ready for the romantic night out.

Our booking was for 9pm only, so we had plenty of time to get drunk for an aperitive drink on beautiful Wandsworth Common on that cool night of spring. When we finally made our way there, we were warmly welcomed by Chez Bruce’s staff and taken to our table in the buzzy ground floor restaurant room. I hate Michelin star restaurants that are too formal, I’m French and I perfectly understand that food is a serious matter, but for Pete’s sake can we do it in a relaxed atmosphere and without feeling conscious about talking or even chewing?! Well, Chez Bruce is definitely not too formal, attentive staff looking after you, but a relaxed overall feeling and a noisy restaurant with people chatting, laughing and definitely not feeling self-conscious. Brilliant.

I was also pleasantly surprised to notice an artwork by Vincent Poole in the entrance of the restaurant. I like this artist and have met him a few times through work (then chipmuncher said he was probably of the same family as the Chef, Bruce Poole, and I felt a bit silly for not thinking about it myself).We sat at our table and ordered G&T. They were delicious, served with cucumber slices instead of lemon wedges like they do in good eateries. And we dived in the menu, feeling adventurous.

For starters, I had Lamb sweetbreads and tongue with goat’s cheese dumpling, wild garlic pesto and dressed fragola. It was honestly one of the best things I have ever tasted (sorry mum…). Sweetbreads were so tasty and refined, even chipmuncher – who looked disgusted when I explained what they were and when he heard me order tongue – tried it and admitted it was delicious. He ordered Foie gras and chicken liver parfait served on toasted brioche buns and it was delightful too. His favourite was the chicken liver, personally I liked the foie gras more (I’ve never been a fan of chicken liver).

Lamb sweetbreads & tongue

Lamb sweetbreads & tongue

For mains, still feeling adventurous, I had Sauted calf’s liver with potato gnocchi, trotter sausage, sage beurre noisette and red wine. Now, it is pretty weird that this dish caught my eye because I absolutely hate pig’s trotter. Since my tender childhood I have seen my father eat pigs trotters salads (“pieds de porc vinaigrette”, an old French dish – DONT do a Google image search) and I just cannot stand the very strong flavour of that piece of meat. So, it is no surprise that I didn’t enjoy the trotter sausage and left it. Fortunately, all components of the dish had been cooked separately and it didn’t affect the rest of the dish. And the rest of the dish, I thoroughly enjoyed. The calf’s liver was so tender it melted in your mouth, the gnocchi were cooked to perfection, everything was delicious. I can’t remember what chipmuncher had… Will need to check with him and edit the post.

Sauted calf's liver with gnocchi

Sauted calf’s liver with gnocchi

Finally, for dessert, we decided to share a cheese board ( cheese ❤ ) and a sweet pudding. The cheese board was good, with a good standard selection although nothing so exceptional that I still remember… Then came dessert a wonderful Salted caramel and hazelnut tartlet with chocolate ice-cream. It was perfect: light, balanced, not too sweet, ideal to top off a big meal… AND it came with a personalised ‘Happy birthday’ message in chocolate sauce! Our waiter explained that the Chef had read my tweet earlier that day and had given instructions to make the experience even more special. Now, if that’s not amazing service, I don’t know what you need.

Salted caramel & hazelnut tartlet with chocolate ice-cream.

Salted caramel & hazelnut tartlet with chocolate ice-cream.

I was very touched and we left Chez Bruce very full and satisfied but also with the feeling that we had treated ourselves to a truly exceptional food experience overall. It is a Michelin starred restaurant, it is not cheap (count just under £100 / person for a 3 course meal with a bottle of wine + cafes), although still acceptable compared to prices of other London restaurants – some of which are nowhere as good. But the experience was definitely worth it: good atmosphere, refined food, lovely staff and good service.

We will definitely go again.

Address: Chez Bruce, 2 Bellevue Road, Wandsworth Common, London SW17 7EG

Tomato Basil Bread Pudding with Mozzarella

I recently discovered Lattes and Leggings and it has quickly become one of my favourite food blogs. Please check it out and enjoy 1) the amazingly inventive heathy recipes 2) the great photographs.

In particular, I had come across Jen’s ‘Tomato Basil Bread Pudding With Mozzarella‘ and thought it sounded like a perfect recipe for a lazy Sunday evening. This weekend’s high temperatures meant we spent most of our time sunbathing, gardening and wishing we had a swimming pool in the small garden of our Victorian conversion flat and I didn’t  feel like standing by a hot stove and oven for too long. It was therefore the perfect time for me to try it.

I am not going to re-write the recipe here, because Jen’s is just perfect. I did adapt it a little bit to our tastes and ingredients (like, I believe, you should never hesitate to do with other people’s recipes):

  • I used ‘regular’ tomatoes instead of grape tomatoes because that’s what I had in the kitchen; and since they were ripe and very tasty I don’t think it made much difference. Obviously, I cut them in 4 instead of halves.
  • I used white loaf instead of sourdough bread, because it was stale and I find there’s nothing better than stale bread to soak up yummy tomato juices and olive oil.
  • Finally, because I’m not familiar with American cups, and because I was too lazy to convert them, I did it all “au pif et a l’oeil” – which in French means “with my nose and eye”, I’m sure you know what I mean. The recipe is so simple and instinctive that with basic judgement it worked perfectly well.

Verdict: Delicious, easy, lazy, summery recipe. Highly recommended. Served with a fresh salad, it’s just the perfect combination of simple and tasty.

Tomato Basil Bread Pudding with Mozzarella

Tomato basil mozzarella bread pudding

Summer lights in London

Sit back and enjoy the summer farniente.

Grilled sweet potato, chickpea & chorizo salad

London is currently undergoing a heatwave. We are absolutely not complaining nor moaning about the long-expected heat, but  the evenings can be a bit wet and sweaty in our 1st floor Victorian conversion flat! Therefore, we need to limit the amount of time we spend by the oven and stove as well as the calories we put in our bodies during these times of drowsy torpor.

One of our favourite mid-week meal is sweet potato, chickpea and chorizo hash (for which a great recipe can be found here, compliments of the BBC Good Food website). I thought I should adapt this to the hot weather and therefore decided to make it into a salad. It worked and we both enjoyed it a lot. Then we had a naughty shop-bought vanilla and chocolate ice-cream but shhhhh…

Sweet potato, chickpea and chorizo salad

INGREDIENTS (for 4 servings)

  • 1 chorizo, diced
  • your selection of mixed salad (I used lettuce and our homegrown rocket salad)
  • 3 sweet potatoes, skin on and roughly chopped
  • 1 can of chickpeas, softened if needed (chipmuncher likes his very soft so I always empty the can in a colander and pour a kettle of boiling water on top to soften the chickpeas)
  • fresh thyme
  • 4 eggs
  • feta to taste, diced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • olive oil & balsamic vinegar

METHOD

  • Pre-boil your sweet potatoes in salted water for 5 minutes.
  • Pan-fry the diced chorizo in a dry pan (and throw away any oil and fat that oozes out) and reserve on kitchen towel when dry and coloured.
  • While the sweet potatoes and chorizo cook, put your salad mix in a salad bowl with the cheese and chickpeas.
  • As soon as the sweet potatoes are soft, transfer to a baking tray, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper & fresh thyme and place under the grill for 10-15 minutes (or until coloured).
  • Poach your eggs in a shallow pan of water and wine vinegar (ok, I’ll admit, I’m TERRIBLE at cooking eggs, and scared to death at the idea of it, so chipmuncher is always the one doing any eggy jobs around the kitchen)
  • As soon as the sweet potatoes are grilled and coloured, take off the grill.
  • Assemble the salad: add the chorizo and sweet potatoes to your mix, season with oil & vinegar and plate up.
  • Place your poached eggs on top of each plate serving.
  • Eat immediately.
  • IDEA: if you want to spice things up, sprinkle your sweet potatoes with paprika  before putting under the grill.

Grilling sweet potatoes with fresh thyme

Assembling the salad

Plating up the sweet potato salad

Blueberry and vanilla cake

I believe that you just cannot beat a Hummingbird Bakery cake. They are the most naughty and decadent recipes around. So much sugar, so much butter, so much eggs, so much of everything, they are incredibly indulging and – for the sake of your arteries – should be regarded as an exceptional treat rather than a weekly sweet. But for special celebrations, they really do the trick!

The other weekend was chipmuncher’s parents’ 60th birthday. All the food was made by professional caterers except for the puds cause, you know, us girls of the family kinda rock at baking. Chipmuncher’s sister made a chocolate cheesecake and a banoffee pie, his mum a lemon meringue and a tiramisu and I made this fruit tea loaf and a Hummingbird blueberry and vanilla cake.

This cake is supposed to be baked in a ring shaped tin. I didn’t have one so mine is just a regular cake shape.

The Hummingbird book recipe

Baby blueberry cake

Big blueberry cake

Here’s what you’ll need.

For the cake:

  • 350 gr. unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 350 gr. caster sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 450 gr. plain flour
  • 2 tbsp and 2 tsp baking powder
  • 280 ml soured cream
  • 250 gr. fresh blueberries (and extra to decorate)

For the frosting (careful, the below quantities are HALF what Hummingbird recommends to make for that cake. But I find it’s way enough):

  • 300 gr. icing sugar (I never sift mine, it’s just too messy. Same thing with flour, “nobody aint got time for that”.)
  • 50 gr. unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 125 gr. cream cheese (I love Philadelphia, could eat up the whole tub with a spoon)

And here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Preheat your oven to 170°C
  • In a freestanding electric mixer, put the butter and sugar and cream until mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract, flour and baking powder until all well mixed.
  • Add the soured cream and mix until your mixture is light and all completely blended together.
  • By hand now, gently stir in the blueberries.
  • Pour into the mould and bake for 40 minutes.
  • Once cooked, leave the cake to cool and turn out onto a cooling rack.
  • Make your frosting: beat the icing sugar and butter together with a whisk (you can use an electric whisk if you are not too scared about covering your whole kitchen in icing sugar, I prefer to do it by hand even if it takes a bit longer). Once blended, add all the cream cheese in one go and keep whisking until smooth and light (but not too much or it will become runny). Keep the frosting in the fridge if you are not going to ice your cake straightaway.
  • When the cake is completely cold (and only then, believe me you DON’T want to ice a warm cake. Ever!), put it on a serving plate, cover the top and sides with the cream cheese frosting and decorate with the leftover blueberries.

NB: I have the oldest freestanding mixer you could think of, that chipmuncher’s lovely mum gave me when we moved in a year ago. It only has an ON and OFF option and no security whatsoever, but it works and is good enough for this recipe. If that is not guarantee that this is the easiest recipe ever, I don’t know what you need.

Fish on the BBQ

I love a BBQ. /// But I refuse to call it a ‘barbie’ like they do over here: it just sounds too weird, like the doll, and who would want to eat a charcoal-grilled plastic symbol of women’s oppression under capitalism and patriarchy? ///

So, I was saying, I love a BBQ and I think it deserves much more versatility than many give it. Now, of course, sausages, chicken skewers, burgers are sure to be a crowd pleaser. But, come on people, surely we can be more creative than that! What about… fish?

Below are a few examples of fish you can easily prepare on the BBQ and that are incredibly tasty!

  • PRAWNS:

BBQ Prawns shell on

Personally, I prefer to keep the shells on when I bbq prawns because it ensures they remain moist and juicy and it also adds a delicious sweet taste to their flesh. But I know that some people get a bit weird about having to peel seafood at the table so it’s up to you.

Prawn and sweet chili skewers

Another option is therefore to buy raw peeled prawns. Above, we have put them on skewers and marinated them in sweet chilli sauce and coriander. It’s scrumptious. However, since the prawns are not in its shell, you have to be very careful not to leave them too long on the barbecue or they’ll go hard and chewy.

 

  • FISH EN PAPILLOTE

That’s a fancy French word to say “in a parcel” (of tin foil). It does the trick though as it sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of preps when, really, you have marinated fish, wrapped in in foil, and thrown in on the BBQ for 5 minutes.

Cod en papillote

Above, we have put our cod fillets on a large piece of tin foil, before covering with lemon zest, olive oil, salt & pepper, dill and lemon wedges. Close the foil tightly (so the steam cannot escape during cooking) and leave in the fridge for an hour at least before cooking. It cooks really quickly on the BBQ, 3 to 5 minutes. Leave in the parcel until serving so it remains warm and soaked in its juices.

Salmon en papillote

I think the salmon en papillote was the star of our Sunday BBQ. It is marinated in soy sauce, salt & pepper, orange zest and orange wedges. Again, be sure to close the parcel very tightly and cook for 5 minutes. Leave in the tin foil until serving.

These are just a few ideas of how you can make your summer Sunday gatherings a little bit more special than the usual sausage & burger BBQ. The feedback was great, and the effort minimal, so it’s really worth a try!